I was still working for the government, and would be for the next four years. Well, they had paid for my majoring in Magic at the university. Three years at the university translated to six years of governmental service. I had already 'served' two of those six years.
If my magical abilities had been discovered earlier, while I was in high school, then I could have gotten a grant, and side stepped mandatory governmental service. However, I was a late bloomer, magic wise, and no one realized my abilities until I was already serving in the army.
I sighed, and thought about the paper I was writing for my wizard's evaluation. I was currently a sorcerer. Becoming a wizard was what I was working hard to achieve. While I was well paid as a sorcerer, a wizard's earnings were so much better, that I wanted it very badly.
I looked out the window of the restaurant where I was eating, and watched the cars go by. The marriage between science and magic had started off very shakily, fifty years ago, when magic returned to the world. However, most of the problems had been ironed out, and there was a sort of peace between magic users and science, now.
The local power plant had gone off of fossil fuel, and had been run by a wizard and a team of sorcerers for about ten years now. Fossil fuels just cost too much, when you could use magic to do the same thing. Even paying the excellent salaries the magical team demanded, the electric companies had profits coming out their asses.
Absently, I took a bite of my steak, and thought hard about my paper. That was only one third of my final test scoring for promotion to the rank of Wizard. I still had the magical test to do, and I had to come up with a "new, never before used" spell to complete the criteria for promotion.
"Carl! There you are," I heard behind me.
I turned in my seat, and saw Kate and Alex walking towards me.
"Hey, Alex... Kate. Skipping out on the evening classes again?" I asked, before stabbing my fork into my salad.
Alex and Kate were taking advanced courses in magic with me. Both were ranked as Sorcerer and Sorceress. They, too, were studying for advancement to Wizard.
"I thought you had to go off and do your military service, Carl," Alex said to me.
"I got a reprieve. The government is trying like hell to get me to sign a new contract. Letting me skate on this training exercise, is a way they are trying to bribe me," I responded when my mouth was clear of food.
"They are so transparent," Kate said with a sniff.
I nodded in agreement. I really didn't mind going off on the training exercises. I had enough magic at my command to make myself comfortable in 'field conditions'. Besides, I loved camping out, and the military was very good at sending people out into the field. I had been scheduled to go out with an infantry battalion and set up defensive wards and respond to any magical attacks.
That is until my supervisor had called and informed me that my portion of the field exercise was canceled, and that I had no requirements or commitments to meet at this time. That meant extra study and writing time on my paper.
"You almost done with the paper yet, Alex?" I asked.
"Hell, no. I am only halfway done with it. Kate finished hers already, though," Alex said while sending Kate a dark look.
"Not my fault you keep finding other things to do Alex. Maybe if you concentrated more on study, and less on dating; you would be done, just like I am," Kate responded and grinned.
"Well, I am almost done with my paper. I just need to write a couple more pages and then proofread everything. Then I just wait for the magical portion of the test. What's giving me a real headache is trying to come up with that 'new spell' requirement," I said, sighing dejectedly.
"I don't see why you're having so much trouble with that. After all, you passed spell construction or you wouldn't be a sorcerer," Kate said while snagging a tomato out of my salad bowl.
"Breaking down existing spells is one thing. Constructing a spell that has never before been cast, is something else again... and stay out of my salad," I replied moodily.
That was the kicker. To get rated as a Wizard, or promoted, I would have to basically create a brand new, never before used, spell. That was on top of turning in my paper, and taking a test using existing spells. The spell I had to make could be anything. It didn't even have to be complicated, or powerful. It just had to be a new spell never before used. I could understand why it was a requirement, tho. The magical community needed new spells. This was a good way of getting them.
About then a waitress came by and my two friends ordered. I had not meant to eat with anyone this evening, though, and told them I was leaving for the library as soon as I was finished.
"Are you going to the week end bash this time?" Kate asked me.
"I think I am a bit old to be going to week end bashes, Kate," I responded.
"You're what, twenty seven? That's not old at all, particularly now a days. You're only as old as you feel," Kate replied snagging yet another one of the few remaining tomato's from my salad.
I gave her a look and held up my fork in a threatening manner to indicate I was stabbing her hand next time. She just grinned at me and suddenly looked around. Alex Was looking over Kate's shoulder and I could feel it myself. Someone with power was here, and it had a gentle religious feel to it. A sort of saintliness.
Now... while I believe in God, I had never really been a church go-er, myself. I had no objections to the many religions that were around, I just felt that one's view of God, and how you worshiped Him, was a personal thing that should not be directed by a specific person, group, or authority.
Just as Alex and Kate's order arrived, three people were seated close by, and their order taken. One was dressed in all black. Black shoes, pants, and shirt, with a white collar denoting his Catholic religion.
Another man was dressed in a long flowing robe of some sort, had a beard and a turban-like headdress. The third person was a nun, of all things. One of those people exuded a gentle power that could not be ignored. It lifted and buoyed the spirit. I felt better just basking in its presence.
The whole atmosphere of the room seemed to change with the coming of these three holy people. Everyone was more relaxed, and they all enjoyed their meal even more than usual. Smiles were appearing and sighs of contentment could be heard around the room.
"Wow, someone has a direct line to 'you know where'," Kate said, quietly awed.
"Is it just me, or does it seem odd that three such diverse religious people would be eating together? I mean, the Arab is obviously a Muslim, you can tell by his copy of the Koran, the Catholic is obvious, and a nun with them? This is a curious mix, indeed," Alex mused, stating what I was thinking.
What could bring such three diverse people together? Oh, the nun could be Catholic, but the Arab man seemed friendly and even comfortable with the other two. It just seemed peculiar to me as well as my friends.
"I really need to get to church more often," Kate said with a sigh.
"You don't need a church, to worship, Kate. Just tell God what you are feeling and pray whenever and wherever you wish," I responded telling her my way of doing things.
"True. However there is something about being with like minded people, at a church, that is comforting," Alex explained.
"Well, I find that the edicts of 'the church' (ANY church of any organized religion), can seem a bit contradictory. I will just go my own way, and my own way, show my respect to and for God," I quietly informed them.
I was listening to the professor expound on a fairly obvious rule of magic. It was a rule stating that a magic user, despite his official rank, could perform to his or her level and even exceed it upon occasion. First year stuff, really.
I tuned him out and thought about the new spell I was working on. I had the beginning thought out, and the ending. I just needed to bridge the two portions together, to complete the spell.
The bridge of the spell was what was giving me trouble.
I was designing a spell that would give a magic user a punch. It would take all available stored magical energy the magic user had available, and also use his or her connection to the magic field, and when used, would cause whatever the magic user cast it at to be hit with a force that was at least ten times stronger than the magic users physical strength. A good offensive spell, if I could finish it. Best of all, it was a cast spell and had a range of about one hundred feet as near as I could figure.
What made this spell different from others that were similar, was that when it was cast, simultaneously a shield went up around the spell caster, automatically defending him or her. This was because the spell caster would be drained of magical power, momentarily, and would need a moment to re-establish the connection back to the magical field, which would be disrupted by the spell as the user cast it.
That was the unfortunate side affect... The losing of the magical connection. Still, I had taken that into account, and had thus created the shield portion of the spell. The really difficult part, was that I had to reduce it down to a manageable phrase and gesture. I sighed in frustration.
Finally, the class was over, and I put my notebook in my backpack. I glanced at my watch and noticed it was now 7PM. It was already dark outside and I had several blocks to walk to get to my apartment.
"Carl, wait up," Gus Billings said to me as I walked out the door.
I waited until he finished talking to the professor. Gus was easily the oldest student in the class at the age of sixty. Still, he was filled with boundless energy, and was working for his Wizard rank, just as were the rest of us. Hell, he should have made Wizard years ago, he was just to busy, according to him.
I was curious as to what he wanted with me. We had a nodding acquaintance, basically. He finally approached me, and I looked at him curiously.
"I was talking about you with my partners at the firm. We have decided we want you to work for us, as a sorcerer or a wizard. We know about your four-year obligation to the government, and that's not a problem. You are the type of solid person we want working for us," he stated earnestly.
"Uh, that's a very nice offer... but I am not even sure what you do, or for whom you work," I admitted, a bit embarrassed.
He appeared startled for a moment, and then laughed.
"I'll be! I am part owner in a small but very successful security firm that provides magical solutions to security problems. The company is called, Magical Solutions. Maybe you have heard of us?" He asked me.
I nodded. Magical Solutions had been instrumental in protecting a person who had been cursed and was being attacked by a minor demon. They had actually destroyed the physical embodiment of the demon, which caused the curse to backfire on the caster. This had catapulted Magical Solutions to the top of the news for a week, as well as lining clients up for them, ever since.
"Why me? I asked him curiously.
"You're steady, level headed, competent with magic. More to the point, you are powerful and yet remain unobtrusive. This shows a maturity that speaks well for you. We need agents who embody these very desirable traits," Gus was saying passionately.
"Let me think about it. This is totally out of the blue, and would mean a change that I would have to think about," I told him.
He nodded and we walked towards the exit. He mentioned the starting salary and I nearly tripped over my own feet at that point! It was a handsome sum to say the least, about fifteen thousand a year more than I was now making.
"That is if you come to work for us as a sorcerer. If you make Wizard, the pay would increase, of course. And the benefits package would be different, also," he said.
I promised to think seriously about it and made my way to my apartment. I had a good couple hours of study yet, before I went to sleep. I was scheduled for the early shift at the power plant.
The offer Gus gave me sounded good to me. When I made Wizard, and I was determined to make it, I would have to give up my job at the Electric Company. They had already told me that if I made Wizard, I would have to resign. They could not pay me the extra money that the rank would require I receive. They had no need for another Wizard, or so they said.
I finished the final draft of my paper, and was pleased. It was on the history of the first year of the return of magic, and the subsequent furor that the event had caused. Things had really been in an uproar over people starting to do magic.
The church at first condemned practitioners of magic. That is until several priests and nuns were discovered to have the ability to work magic, too. Governments everywhere tried to make it illegal to practice magic unless you worked for the government. That didn't last long, either.
Yes, a most confusing time. Thousands of people had been killed, murdered by other people who were terrified of those with magical ability or even suspected of having magic. Also there had been lots of accidental magic and strange side effects from those early attempts at casting spells.
I looked at the clock, and discovered I had about forty minutes to get to work. I changed into my work clothes: gray trousers, and a gray tunic top. Sorcerers were expected to dress this way to distinguish them from the more normal workers.
I got into my car and made the twenty-minute drive with no problems. This gave me twenty minutes to receive a briefing from the person I was relieving, and to make sure everything was in order before I assumed responsibility for the generators.
My job was to ensure that the spell running two of the power plant's generators was maintained and operating correctly. This was my only responsibility. Maintenance was the responsibility of others.
There were plenty of non-magical jobs to be had at the power plant. The lineman, repair people, sales, janitors, all sorts of people who were not magical worked for the power plant. They made a good living doing it, too.
I yawned. 2AM, and I still had another five hours of my shift, 'till I could go home and get some sleep. My shift started at 11 PM and ended the next day at 7AM. I got up and walked to where my interface with my generators was located.
The spells were working perfectly, and the generators were humming and supplying power to the city. As I was going back to the office where I worked out of, I stopped by the vending room and got a snack.
Actually, as vending rooms went, this one offered a wide range of food, snacks, and drinks. It was very well stocked and the workers appreciated it. I know I did. I chose to eat a ham sandwich and a plastic container of chili, which I heated in the microwave. I got a 20 bottle of fruit juice to wash it all down.
I had just finished eating and was about to leave the snack room when the warning buzzers went off, signifying a serious fault of some sort. I ran out of the room, and went back to my station.
The lights flickered, and we were on battery power, the generators were winding down! There was a moment of dead silence. Then the generators went back online as they started using the emergency fuel that was kept on site in case of spell failure.
I was a little dizzy from my connection to the magic field being severed. Somehow, the magic field had been disrupted in this area!
"Carl! Did you feel it?" Beth Andrews asked me as she came up.
She was one of the shift's magic users who was in charge of two of the generators.
"Yes. I lost my connection to the magic field, and the spells running the generators failed," I told her.
"Me, too. Damn, what could cause such a disruption in the magic field?" she asked me.
I shrugged, and about that time the night shift plant manager came running up to us.
"What's going on? We are using up fuel. Why did the generators go down and restart using the back up fuel?" John Preston asked us.
"We are not sure, but it seems the magic field was disrupted. We have lost our connection to it, and the generators lost the spell powering them," Beth answered for us.
"Well, get those spells back up! We only have one tank of fuel as an emergency backup and that will last only about a week," John said angrily.
"Sir, we can't. Whatever disrupted the magic field, has broken our connection to that same field. We have no way of effecting re-start at this time," I told him.
"You mean you can't re-establish the spell to the generators?" John asked worriedly.
"Not at this time, Sir. Not until we can get our own connection to the magic field back. Until then, the only way to power the generators is with the fuel in that tank. We have no idea how long the connection to the magic field will be disrupted," Beth responded.
"Damn! I am going to have to call the wizard in, and also try to order an emergency supply of fuel. You two get back to your stations and try to get those spells back up," John ordered and took off.
"How the hell does he expect us to get the spells back when we can't even interact with the magic field?" Beth asked me sourly.
"I have no idea. Do you have any magic stored up? I have enough to do a few spells, but nothing strong enough to run a generator," I asked her.
"Just enough for a few little spells. I never practiced storing like I guess I should have," she answered with a sigh.
I thought about it. Even if we managed to get one of the generators working on a spell, it would not last long. Once the spell was established, it took only a little power to maintain it, but it would still eat up spell power and eventually go back onto the fuel reserves.
We discussed what to do, then we both tried to establish contact with the magic field. It was maddening. I could sense it, but was unable to affect it or contact it at all. Something was interfering with my ability to make the connection.
"I wonder why we haven't heard from Mathew. He is responsible for two generators and the spell, but he hasn't shown up. Let's go find him," I told Beth.
But we were unable to find him anywhere. He had been there at the beginning of the shift, but now he was nowhere to be found. I frowned and considered what this could mean.
We searched the entire building, but there was no sign of Mathew Spath anywhere. About this time our boss, the Wizard Randal Bosely showed up. We informed him what had happened and what we had done since the disruption to the magic field. We also told him that Mathew seemed to be missing.
"What do you mean missing? What happened exactly?" he asked with a frown.
"Just that after the magic field was disrupted and the spells on the generators collapsed, the generators were restarted using the reserve fuel, and the plant manager ordered us to try to restore the spells.
"Beth and I tried to re-establish a connection, but have been unable to at this point. We also have been searching for Mathew and he appears to be missing. He was here at the start of the shift, and no one has seen him leave," I summed up.
Randal nodded and told us he was going to go find the plant manager and discuss options. He ordered us back to our stations in the control room and that is where we went.
"I wonder how far this disruption in the magic field goes," Beth said to me as we sat at our stations, watching the non-magical people doing their work.
"I have no idea, but I hope it clears up, soon. I can't imagine any reason for this disruption to have happened at all," I answered thoughtfully.
It wasn't until about 5AM that the Wizard came to brief us.
"You both know what has happened, as well as I do. The magic field has been disrupted, locally. I have a call in to the government for a team of wizards to help us with this problem.
"Mathew is indeed missing, and may have had something to do with the disruption. When your relief gets here, you are dismissed, but keep yourselves available to answer questions, and to help out if we need you," Randal instructed Beth and I.